Every now and then, we hear a horror story from some faraway place in which a hardworking taxpayer runs into trouble because of an error by government officials.
Surely, that couldnt happen here. Not in Columbia County, which has exemplary workers and a smoothly run government.
Well, it has. Just ask Brenda Johnson. The Grovetown resident played by the rules. But the county made a mistake, and wants to force her to fix it.
And it wants you to pay for it.
It all started last year, as Johnson got permits to move her sisters mobile home onto the lot alongside Johnsons own trailer.
They made the move, hooked everything up and settled in. A few weeks later, county inspectors came along and said: This second trailer has to be moved. Understandably puzzled, Johnson and her sister, Carol Cothren, went back to the county office that had issued the permit. There, county workers admitted the inspectors citation was a mistake and told the sisters not to worry about it.
And then, three months later, the county inspector came back. And again told Cothren to move the mobile home.
Wisely, Johnson and Cothren have hired a lawyer, and are standing up to the countys demands.
County officials freely admit they erred in allowing Cothrens home on the lot, though Johnson believes the county is simply misreading its own ordinances. Either way, This county messed up, says County Commissioner Frank Spears. We made an error.
Inexplicably compounding that mistake, though, the county is now demanding Cothrens home be moved. County officials are even offering $6,000 to have the trailer hauled away. None of us can turn back the clock now, says County Commission Chairman Barry Fleming. What we can do is try to make it whole.
Heres a better idea: Just back off and leave Johnson and Cothren alone!
It is immaterial whether county workers screwed up by giving the permit when they shouldnt have, or if county officials are now misreading their ordinances. What is undeniable is that the women followed the rules and are now getting pushed around.
We did all they told us to do, to the "T, says Johnson. We did everything legally. We did everything we were supposed to do.
Columbia County has already admitted its error. Let that be enough. Johnson and Cothren shouldnt have to rearrange their lives to fix the countys mistake - and taxpayers shouldnt have to pay for it.
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